// Blog Archive
More and more people are relying on their phones as their primary source of news, yet the content is presented in ways that make it annoying to read.
Rather than shoehorning existing content into a new environment, Circa is creating the first born-on-mobile news experience, delivering it in a format native to mobile devices, with an experience intuitive to mobile users.
Circa makes it easier than ever to keep up with what’s going on in the world from wherever you happen to be. News without the fluff, filler, or commentary: Circa’s editors gather top stories and break them down to their essential points — facts, quotes, photos, and more, formatted specifically for the phone.
“The way Circa works is more elaborate than serving you the news with a fancy UI or making sure the news is specifically catered to your interests,” Shundo explains. “We think that in order to make the news more convenient to you, we actually had to redefine the news itself, and then create a way for this new format to be consumed.”
Circa’s editors work hard to collect important and breaking stories from around the world to keep you informed, condensing facts, events, and context into concise points.
Keep track of stories that matter to you. Whenever there are new developments in a story you’re following, Circa adds a new point to it rather than making you read a whole new article.
How well do you really know your environment? Do you worry about whether or not your food is really organic or if you’re being exposed to potentially dangerous radiation levels? Well, a new product called Lapka might help you stop worrying and start knowing.
Called a “personal environment monitor,” the Lapka system is designed to work with your smartphone to give you a better and more complete picture of the world you interact with everyday. With 4 different sensors, you can learn about your immediate environment (your food, house, your apartment, even your office!) and make changes to improve the healthfulness of your space.
The sensor that most stands out to us is the organic detector. By measuring the levels of nitrates on your raw food, the probe can determine whether the food was produced using synthetic fertilizers or not. It can also test your drinking water for residues of those same fertilizers. Now you’ll be able to know whether or not what you’re eating is actually organic, regardless of the claim on the label!
Other sensors include radiation, electromagnetic fields, and humidity. You can spot potentially problematic levels of radioactivity in your living space, minimize your exposure to EMF by finding the lowest spot in the office, and maximize your comfort by monitoring and then finding ways to adjust the levels of humidity in your apartment.
Oh, and did we mention there’s going to be a corresponding app? The app will have two different modes: basic and abstract. The basic version will simply tell you whether the levels of the various elements being measured are acceptable or not. The abstract version will attempt to help you visualize vague concepts like radiation, incorporating pictures and motion to show the safety (or non-safety) of your space.
Who says you can’t make money selling photos taken on your iPhone? Certainly not the creators of a new app dubbed Foap, which allows you to do just that. The app is pretty easy to use: just download it for free off the iTunes store, upload your best pics, tag them so they’re easier to find, and submit. After that every photo will have to be manually approved before it’s put up on the Foap Marketplace for $10 a pop, $5 of which goes to the photographer.
The most interesting thing about the app, however, is that Foap isn’t going to be messing around with any kind of Instagram-y filering. They’ve made it very clear that the companies they sell to aren’t interested in buying heavily filtered or framed photos, and therefore they won’t be approving them.
So while some may see the app as a step in a lower quality direction, lending credence to the belief that an iPhone is adequate equipment for good photography, others will be happy that they at least made a definitive call on the over-processed filtered look: it doesn’t sell. For more details head over to the iTunes store to get your own copy of the app.
It can be impossible to know if you’re dressed properly for the temperature, until you go outside and confirm that, yes, you were the only one silly enough to wear shorts in the unseasonably frigid breeze.
Cloth is a fashion app–a way to share your daily wardrobe over social media–but it’s their latest update that has our attention. They’ve added weather information to your catalog of clothing. So whenever you snap a shot of what you’re wearing, it will automatically be tagged with temperature metadata. In the future, all you have to do is click a “Hot” or “Chilly” icon, and you’ll see all of the clothing you have that can match the temperature. (And hopefully, something in that collection is actually clean.)
Those categories are an important component in keeping the experience simple: Cloth only tags your outfits with the categories Hot, Warm, Chilly, Freezing, Rain and Snow (rather than 45 degrees and sunny or 65 degrees and cloudy). These categories are automated and standardized, as Cloth pulls the temperature from Wunderground, meaning that 75 will always be warm; you can’t screw your system up by mislabeling. It’s a pretty neat idea translated into what the company calls “glanceable information”–a personalized approach to Swackett, if you’ve heard of that clothing forecast app–but it could go so much further than it does.
Also somewhat oddly, the system doesn’t prevent you from reinforcing your own (potentially poor) outfit choices. If you wear a sweater when it’s “hot,” the sweater will be automatically tagged as hot-weather apparel. You can go back in later and retag your outfit with a different suitable temperature, manually, but maybe a “was your outfit too warm, cold or just right?” poll at the end of the day would idiot-proof the process. It would even be interesting to add regional tagging into the mix. So rather than going outside to see what people wore, you could go to Cloth’s feed and know what people are wearing around you from your phone alone. And you could know if they thought their choice was too warm, cold or just right, too.
Both iOS and Android have weather widgets built right in, but weather apps have carved out a huge chunk of the app market all the same. So what’s missing in core weather apps? Detailed forecasts? Probably. But what about something a touch more visceral?
Brisk, by TwoSolid, is an iPhone app with simple style. On one hand, it’s a no-frills experience. The weather is conveyed in temperature and icon–the classic cloud with a thunderbolt idea we see everywhere. There’s no hour-by-hour projection. There’s no weather map. You can flick right to see tomorrow’s weather, flick down to change your location, or flick up to tweak the settings. That’s pretty much it.
But on the other hand, Brisk cuts through the excess to focus on the core, answering the question “what is the weather like at this very moment?” “I was just tired of weather apps where you need to read the temperature or see overwhelming graphics plus do additional actions to figure out what is happening to the weather,” designer Eddie Lobanovskiy tells Co.Design. “Brisk let’s you figure out what the weather feels like right now by using appropriate color tone.”
Brisk’s UI features a warm-to-cool color gradient that’s more than just pretty. If it’s warm outside, the temperature appears in the warm part of the image (and the screen becomes more orange). If it’s cold outside, the temperature drops to the cool part of the image (and the screen becomes more blue). Oddly enough, though, these colors can be remapped. So if your interpretation of warm is different than everyone else’s, then you can enjoy blue 80-degree days. I can’t help but feel this is a bit too accommodating to the hypothetical consumer. There’s a reason that we call orange a “warm” color–it’s the color of fire and the sun–while “cool” blues are naturally tied to water and frost. That phenomenon isn’t something that TwoSolid should feel the need to offer options around; it drives the entire value of their app’s perspective.
All the same, Brisk seems worth checking out when it’s available in the coming weeks. You can sign up on their page if you’d like to be notified of its release.
As fun as an iPad piano can be for a few minutes, it’s never a satisfying experience long term. And why would it be? The piano wasn’t constructed for a touch screen; it was constructed for a piano. So if we can’t bang on a piano’s keys, how should we make melodies? MIDI Writer is an iPhone app ($1) that translates every keyboard press you make into music. The alphabetical keyboard that you already use for texting, Facebook, and emailing becomes a platform for audio composition.
“You can map any character (letter) to any MIDI sound,” explains the app’s creator, Masayuki Akamatsu. “It’s a simple rule-based process. The app converts a character you typed to a unicode, and then converts the unicode to MIDI note number and velocity.”
It’s not that crazy of an idea, if you really think about it. On a touch screen, buttons are buttons. Why not remap the functions of the iPhone’s most used buttons to do something else? Such a design lowers the barrier of entry for the user–there’s no new finger contortion to learn–and because buttons can always be remapped, there’s infinite possibility within the humdrum confines of QWERTY. “I’m fascinated with the idea that everything is a symbol and that can be transformed,” writes Akamatsu. It’s a High Art ideal with a very practical purpose: “Not only a professional musician, but also an ordinary person, can produce a unique phrase.”
Akamatsu’s goal is that we “play different,” using MIDI Writer to not just type music on our virtual keyboards, but create notes from every type of text input Apple permits, from hand-drawn kanji to peripherals that dock. For such a simple riff on typing, it sure has a lot of flexibility.
If you’d like to try MIDI Writer, it’s a buck in the app store. Just keep in mind, it won’t create music all on its own; you’ll need another app to provide the actual tones that MIDI Writer references. Without it, you’ll be type-jamming in silence.
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